The London home of Sigmund Freud is being re-created in Ireland for a big feature film in which Anthony Hopkins, the Oscar-winning actor, will star as the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis.
It will include the study, complete with reconstructions of his psychoanalytic couch and other possessions. Freud had meticulously arranged them in his suburban house in Hampstead, in the north of the city, to look just like the study that he had left behind in Vienna in escaping Nazi persecution in 1938.
The film, titled Freud’s Last Session, is based on Mark St Germain’s acclaimed 2010 play of ideas, which imagines an encounter between atheist Freud and Christian CS Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Set on the eve of the second World War, the film depicts Freud as an 83-year-old Jewish refugee whose groundbreaking The Interpretation of Dreams is considered one of the most important books of the 20th century. Lewis is a 40-year-old Oxford academic, who also wrote extensively on science and its relation to Christian faith.
Ryan Tubridy’s last Late Late: Host brims with emotion as Saoirse Ronan, U2 and Paul McCartney make appearances
‘I miss breakfast rolls and the sense of humour but our life in the US has been as normal as anyone else’s with young kids’
[ ‘Brad Pitt may have thought I was being a bit difficult’: Anthony Hopkins on a life in acting ]
In the drama, they discuss every subject from the existence of God to science. Although they never actually met, their conversations are inspired by their writings.
Hopkins played Lewis 30 years ago, in the acclaimed film Shadowlands, portraying him as a shy academic opposite Debra Winger as his wife, the American poet Joy Gresham. This time Matthew Goode, who starred in Downton Abbey and The Crown, will play Lewis.
Meg Thomson, one of the producers of Freud’s Last Session, says Hopkins “read the script and attached himself very quickly. He’s wonderfully attentive creatively. He gets into great discussions with the director Matt Brown about the staging and how he’s going to perform certain sections.”
Freud’s Hampstead home – a three-storey 1920s building in the Queen Anne revival style – was preserved by his daughter Anna, a pioneering child psychoanalyst, until her death in 1982. She bequeathed it to a charitable trust and, in 1986, it opened to the public as the Freud Museum, drawing 30,000 visitors a year.
The film-makers considered using the Freud Museum, but the street has modern lighting, and the Irish reconstruction gives them more control and flexibility. It is also more expensive to shoot in London. For the exterior shots, they have found streets in Dublin that closely resemble Hampstead.
Giuseppe Albano, its director, has been working with the film’s Oscar-nominated production designer, Luciana Arrighi, in recreating the rooms at Ardmore Studios, in Bray, Co Wicklow.
[ Want to visit the real Narnia? Discover these storybook locations ]
He is collaborating with the film-makers in replicating intricate details such as Greek and Roman antiquities, among some 2,500 objects that Freud kept in his study, along with the psychoanalytic couch and the Persian rug draped over it, his desk and his surrealist chair. “All of these were brought with him from Vienna and he wrote many of his big works on that desk,” says Albano.
In the play, it was just the two characters in a room. The movie extends it, exploring their lives, including Freud’s relationship with his daughter and Lewis’s unconventional romance with his best friend’s mother, Janie Moore.
Thomson says that Freud’s Last Session debates issues that are still relevant today: “It’s about listening to what the other side has to say.”
In one scene, Lewis says: “You’ve insisted all your life that the very concept of God is ludicrous. So why do you care what I think if you’re satisfied in your disbelief?” Freud replies: “I want to learn why a man of your supreme intellect could suddenly abandon truth and embrace an insidious lie.”
Lewis asks: “What if it isn’t a lie? Have you ever considered how terrifying it would be to realise you’re wrong?” Freud responds: “Far less terrifying than it would be for you. You said earlier that you challenge my worldview, my belief in disbelief.” – Guardian